Before my recent African safari, I spent weeks researching packing needs and searching for the perfect items. I read blogs, found old editorial photos for reference and even asked sales associates at outdoor retailers for their advice. It is typical for me to go above and beyond when preparing for a trip that I’ve never taken before, but the amount of time I spent preparing for my safari was a bit excessive—even for me. However, when I finally arrived I felt so prepared. I believe my packing choices not only enhanced my experience but also enhanced the photos I took while there. I recognize not everyone cares about their outfit choices as much as I do, but I was surprised to see how many people seemed to not have had access to (or chose to ignore) the information about utility clothing that I discovered in the weeks leading up to my trip. Because I want you to enjoy your first safari as much as I did, I’ve compiled a list of a few tips of things I felt were most helpful while I was packing. And although I did try to stay as fashionable as possible, all of these tips are for

utility purposes only!

Only wear neutral-colored clothing

While on game drives, the best thing you can do for your sightings is blend in with your surroundings. Blending in will keep animals calm and probably allow you to get a closer view. When choosing neutral colors think earth-tones such as tan, cream, khaki, brown, green and clay colors. It’s important to stay away from dark-colored clothing (such as black or navy) so that you don’t attract insects, and away from bright/white-colored clothing so you don’t startle wildlife.

Prepare for the extreme change in temperature

Out in the bush, the days are hot and the evenings (and early mornings) are cool. To be comfortable at all times, it is best to prepare for both extremes. Wear layers so that you can add and take away as the day progresses. Having a warm jacket and scarf (yes, you’ll need a scarf for Africa) are essential for early mornings and evenings. The best clothing for the heat is either natural, breathable fabrics (such as cotton or linen) or synthetic clothing that wicks away moisture.

Don’t forget a hat

Hats are vital for a comfortable game drive, especially if you’re going to be in an open-air vehicle (which I’d recommend because it allows you to get to the most remote places in the bush). A hat will help block the sun and wind as you spend hours on game drives. Make sure you go for utility over fashion and choose a hat that has a chinstrap attached so it won’t fly away. Hats designed specifically for safari have ventilation to help keep your head cool.

Choose the correct shoes

The wrong shoes can be detrimental on game walks and will put a damper on your experience. Choose a shoe that comes up above the ankle to avoid insects entering through exposed skin areas, that is comfortable enough to walk long distances in and that has a rubber sole to prevent you from slipping while walking on grass of all types. Shoes that blend in with the ground are definitely a plus, and you should ensure that your shoes won’t make a lot of noise as you walk.

Bring your own insect repellent and sunscreen

Not all lodges will provide guests with insect repellent and sunscreen, so it is best that you have your own. Your insect repellent should include DEET and specify that it is approved for the “deep woods” or something equivalent. Before we packed we chose to spray our clothes with 3M Ultrathon Clothing Insect Repellent, just for extra protection. You can also buy clothing that’s already lined with insect repellant. Sunscreen is just as important because you’ll be out in direct sunlight for hours. Just remember to apply sunscreen first, and then insect repellant on top.

Make sure you have a way to charge all your devices at night

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a lot of devices with you during your safari. I had my DSLR camera, my iPhone and a battery pack to charge my iPhone, just to name a few. At night, most everything was dead and needed to be charged. It is important to have enough converters and docks that allow you to charge several things at once.

A bag that will protect all of your things

While out on a game drive, it is important that you have a bag that will protect your belongings from the elements. During the rainy season, it is known to rain without notice. But rain isn’t the only element you’ll have to worry about. The amount of dust out in the bush is staggering. And the vehicle you’ll ride in will only create more as it moves along dirt roads. Keep the elements in mind as your pack your bag for the day.

Eyewear is not just a fashion statement

Although sunglasses and binoculars do make great props for pictures, having them on a game drive is much more for utility than for a fashion statement. The sun is bright out in the bush, and sunglasses really protect your eyes from the glare. Sunglasses also help keep dust out of your eyes as you drive along dirt roads. Binoculars are also more than just a fashion statement. They come in handy, no matter how close you are to an animal. They allow you to spot birds and get an up-close look at animals that are right in front of you.

Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.